At the beginning of the week we discussed Oregon Baseball’s batting stats and how they helped aid in the Ducks’ run to the conference tournament title and a Super Regional appearance.
Now it’s time to take a glance at pitching which, unlike batting, was not a strong suit for Oregon in 2023.
So, the first and most pressing question: was pitching really that terrible this season?
In a word, no, it was not abysmal. However, it left a lot to be desired, especially in contrast to the Ducks’ batting.
The bread and butter stat of pitching is the ERA (earned run average). As noted in Monday’s piece, a player’s OBP (on base percentage) can be a hidden gem as it leads to increased opportunity for runs. Pitchers, however, are more concerned with making sure no one crosses home rather than who can get to first or second. After all, a scoreless inning pitched with the final out occurring with loaded bases is still…a scoreless inning.
ERA stats can be debatable, but it’s generally understood that having an ERA between 3.00 and 4.00 is above average, or “good” for that matter. An ERA between 4.00 and 5.00 is more along the lines of average or “okay”. Below 5.00 is more below average and needs some improvement.
Again, these generalizations can be taken with a grain of salt, but they’re fairly widely known.
For the season, the Ducks ERA stood at 5.28, which essentially shows that though they fall into that “needs improvement” range, they’re actually reasonably close to “average”.
So why so much ripping on the pitching? Well, average shouldn’t be the benchmark for a team that went to the Super Regional. Granted, you can’t necessarily expect to be great at both batting and pitching, it takes a mix. But even though it is less prevalent at the NCAA level, pitching is still the creme de la creme.
Oregon has a very young pitching staff loaded with freshmen, and it is extremely deep. The hope is, that with a lot of depth at pitching you can find a couple closers and maybe an ace. Unfortunately, that wasn’t really the case for Oregon this season…at least not consistently.
Jace Stoffal was Oregon’s most efficient pitcher. In eight games he held a 6-2 win/loss record with an ERA of 2.83. Matt Dallas and Turner Spoljaric had 6-2 and 7-0 win/loss records respectively, but their ERAs were nowhere near as good at 5.06 and 6.55.
In contrast, Ian Umlandt finished with an ERA of 2.60, but had only one win to his name.
The scoreboards, however, may be the most telling.
Double digit runs are far more common in NCAA Baseball but still are not something one will see every other game. In 2023 Oregon allowed an opponent to compile double digit runs 13 times. And in a season in which it played 63 total games, that means that the Ducks were giving up double digit runs 20 percent of the time.
That…will not get it done.
The good news, as mentioned, is that Oregon’s pitching corps were very young and inexperienced, and their most consistent pitcher missed significant time due to injury.
It’s hard to say if Oregon will have as explosive of an offense in 2024 but if it’s complemented by improved pitching, it may not have to be.
For a team that was only a few outs away from going to Omaha, even a slight improvement on the mound could spell big things for the Diamond Ducks.